Domestic and family violence and parenting

Domestic and family violence and parenting

Mixed method insights into impact and support needs: Final report

Rae Kaspiew, Briony Horsfall and Lixia Qu

Commissioned report— June 2017
mother comforting child

The Domestic and Family Violence and Parenting program is an extensive mixed method project that examines the impact of inter-parental conflict (IPC) and domestic and family violence (DFV) on parenting and parent–child relationships. It makes a unique contribution by bringing together evidence on a diversity of Australian populations, life-course stages, and experiences of IPC and DFV. The research captures the experiences and impacts on fathers, mothers, and children at varying ages and stages of development and independence. This has enabled identification of important issues that are shared or differ across gender and family structure. The results illustrate the impacts of IPC and DFV that affect a large number of families, as well as the experiences of those who have undergone highly challenging and traumatic circumstances.

This work is part of the ANROWS Horizons series. ANROWS Horizons (research reports) are indepth reports on empirical research produced under ANROWS’s research program.
This report addresses work covered in the ANROWS research project 1.8 “Domestic and family violence and parenting: Mixed method insights into impact and support needs”. Please consult the ANROWS website for more information on this project. In addition to this report, ANROWS Landscapes and ANROWS Compass papers are available as part of this project.
Read this report in full

Key messages

Experience of inter-parental conflict is common among Australian families.

  • One in four mothers report some periods of inter-parental conflict with their partner in the past; currently or both.
  • One in four mothers suffered physical abuse before separating.
  • One in six fathers experienced physical abuse before separating.

Emotional abuse is a serious issue in family breakdowns.

  • Two-thirds of mothers and half of fathers reported experience of at least one form of emotional abuse by their former partners.
  • Emotional abuse continued for long periods – even up to five years after separation for significant numbers of people.

Women at the more extreme end of family violence were subjected to multiple types of abuse including:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical harm
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse

In the qualitative sample of 50 women they experienced highly controlling behavior by their former partners, including:

  • Unreasonable expectations around housework and their children’s behavior;
  • Psychological and verbal abuse; frequently including threats to kill;
  • Stalking and vexatious litigation; post separation.

Inter-parental conflict and domestic and family violence have serious, negative impacts on parents and children

Mothers who experienced family violencewere more likely to suffer psychological distress and to have less confidence as mothers and to be facing financial hardship than mothers who did not have this experience.

The study was led by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and drew on data from:

  • Over 6,000 families in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children;
  • 16, 000 separated families in the Family Pathways Studies
  • 50 in-depth interviews with women across Australia who had personal experience of family violence (and used services in the family violence, child protection and family law sectors.)
Suggested citation:

Kaspiew, R., Horsfall, B., Qu, L., Nicholson, J. M., Humphreys, C., Diemer, K., … Dunstan, J. (2017). Domestic and family violence and parenting: Mixed method insights into impact and support needs: Final report (ANROWS Horizons 04/2017). Sydney: ANROWS.

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